Torii Arch

Bright Eyes Preview: The Torii Arch

Waiting for next Seasons of the Sword book? Author David Kudler just shared this sneak preview from the next exciting installment in Risuko’s adventures:

Bright Eyes Preview: The Torii Arch

We all walked out to the front gate, where the guards Kaede and Shiro were back at their posts.

“Did anyone climb up the arch here last night?” barked Lord Takeda.

“No, sir!” they both answered. Kaede, the Matsudaira guard, pointed at me: “That skinny girl there jumped down, though.”

Captain Baba gave a huff of surprise.

“Yes, yes,” said Takeda-sama, waving his hand at the Matsudaira guard and then pointing up. “Kano-girl. You say you can climb that?”

I nodded and then, thrilled at the opportunity to do the thing I most enjoyed, I ran toward the closest pillar and leapt. Wrapping my arms and legs around the painted wood, I quickly shimmied upward.

It was easy climbing. The beam was about as thick as one of the pine trunks from home, but smooth. Though the paint and the morning’s dew made the surface a bit slick, I could gain enough purchase with my feet and hands to keep myself moving upward.

Just below the first lintel, I stopped.

“Too hard, Mouse-chan?” called Toumi. The tease was just to keep up the tradition, I knew.

I shook my head. “Scuff marks. Fresh.” Looking down I saw Lord Takeda and his officers staring up at me, mouths open. The sight made me smile, even as the fact that Emi still wasn’t looking at me made my stomach clench.

I reached the first crossbar and threw my leg over it. Where it met the pillar, a nail stuck out; from its head, a bright blue thread fluttered in the morning breeze. I plucked the thread free and let it fall to the watchers below. “I think the lieutenant was here.”

Suzume caught the thread, but I was already making my way up to the top crossbar, throwing my arms over and pulling myself up. The arch, which looked so stable from the ground, swayed slightly beneath my feet. Still, it was steadier than a tree top. And I had made it to the top.

I looked out over the hillside — the two camps, marked with red flags to the left and blue to the right, wisps of smoke rising from campfires into the sunlit morning air — over the valley, all gold and green, and the white and grey mountains above. The blue sky and golden sun.

I truly had never felt more alive.

Remembering why I was there, I looked down at the top of the huge crossbar. On either side of my foot were two large footprints — clear, fresh ones, unwashed by the rains of two days before. “Footprints!” I called out.

Looking down at the small sea of astonished faces, I smiled and waved, and then turned and jumped the two  paces to the wall of the Full Moon.

I had to spread my feet to avoid landing on the sharpened bamboo stakes that pushed up from the wall like broken teeth. Some loose gravel on the top of the plaster wall made my left foot skid slightly, giving me a moment of terror, but then I grabbed one of the spikes to steady myself and was able to stand. I walked along the wall to the roof of the guest house, and then clambered down the half-timbered wall to the ground.

Walking back out the gate and bowing to Takeda-sama, I nodded. “That’s how he got in.”

“Well,” Lady Chiyome sighed, “it seems that I’m going to have to move that arch further from the wall.”

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